How to change key on guitar the 2 5 1 secret

The question of how to change key on guitar is something that all guitarists think about at some point in their guitar journey. We learn how to make chord progressions within a single key and we then naturally want to build on that knowledge and make our chord progressions and compositions more interesting and sophisticated. It’s human nature. We explore different paths to do this. Learning more complex chords is one road that we explore and rightly so. But something else that we consider is changing from one key to another during the same piece and that’s why you’re here (I think). We hear our favourite bands change key during their songs and we can’t help wondering “how do they do that?”

There are different ways to approach how to change key on guitar or generally in music but here in this guitar lesson, I’m going to show you a very simple and easy to learn key changing trick that will allow you to flawlessly change from one key to another key and all you need is an understanding of the 2 5 1 progression. If you don’t know what the 2 5 1 progression is, go learn it and then come back I guess because we’re going to get straight to the point. In fact, you’ll need a decent understanding of the whole Roman numeral chord system thing in general so don’t proceed if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

How to change key on guitar using the 2 5 1 chord progression

how to change key on guitar

I can teach you how to change key on guitar using a 2 5 1 chord progression with just a couple of short sentences. It really is that easy. I will go a couple of steps further though and provide a few examples and some situations of where this has happened in popular music.

Let’s start with the explanation of the concept. You ready?

It’s as simple as this. If you’re in a key and you want to change to another key, all you need to do is play a 2 5 1 chord progression in the destination key before the key change.

That’s all there is to it. Next, we shall look at some examples to help drive this point home. Try these examples out for yourself and see how they sound.

See also  Minor Neapolitan scale and Major Neapolitan scale notes modes chords

Example 1 changing from C major to E flat major

The first example we’re going to look at is changing from the key of C major to the key of E flat major. As mentioned in my previous instructions, we need to start the key change with a 2 5 1 chord progression of the destination key. In the key of E flat, this will be Fm / Bb / Eb (F minor B flat E flat). We simply add this to the end of what we’re playing. Like this.

Here’s a progression in C major.

C / Am / Dm / G / Em / Am

This progression would be I Vi II V iii Vi but that really doesn’t matter a great deal because we want to learn how to change to E flat major from here.

So, let’s take the 2 5 1 of E flat major as we discussed earlier and add that to the end. We now have this

C / Am / Dm / G / Em / Am / Fm / Bb / Eb

When we hit that F minor chord, we are in the new key. Or we are getting ready to be. How you look at it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we are now in E flat.

C / Am / Dm / G / Em / Am / Fm / Bb / Eb / Cm / Fm / Bb / Eb / Cm / and so on.

Let’s change back to C major using the same technique.

The 2 5 1 for C major is Dm G C. We can add this to what we’ve done so far.

C / Am / Dm / G / Em / Am / Fm / Bb / Eb / Cm / Fm / Bb / Eb / Cm / Dm / G / C….

Example 2 changing from C major to G major

Let’s take a look at another example. We will now change from C major to G major. Our 2 5 1 progression in G major is Am / D / G. We need to work that into our progression. We could end up with something that looks like this.

C / F / C / C

C / F / C / G

Am / D / G / G

Am / D / G / G

G / Bm / C / C / and so on

And so on.

We have two rows in C major, two rows of 2 5 1 in G major which is the start of our new key, then some more G major stuff. That G could be used as a link back to C major by the way if you wanted to change back because G major is the perfect fifth of C major and thus resolves very nicely to the C major chord.

See also  Cm Guitar Chord 16 ways of playing the C minor chord on Guitar

Example 3 changing from C major to A major

For our last example we will change from G major to they key of A major. The 2 5 1 progression is Bm / E / A. See if you can spot where our key change happens.

G / Em / C / D

G / E7 / C / D

Bm / Bn / E7 / E7

A / A / A / A

A /F#m / D / E

The key change occurs as soon as you see that B minor chord. I even worked in the E7 which is the V chord from the new key prior to they key change as a secondary dominant chord to blend things more. Neat right? Then once we’re established in our new key, we went back to the original chord progression of I Vi IV V but in our new key. Give it a try.

In fact, give all of these examples a try and see what they sound like when you play them. They will probably suck when YOU do it but that’s a you problem.

Next, we will look at examples of how this little trick has been implemented in popular music.

How to change key on guitar with the 2 5 1 – real life examples

How to change key on guitar with the 2 5 1 – real life examples

This trick for changing from one key to another with the 2 5 1 progression is something that you will hear in popular music. Let’s look at a couple of examples of it in action within popular songs.

Example 1 The Beatles From Me To You

“I’ve got arms that long to hold you and keep you by my side”.

Over that part is a 2 5 1 progression in F major. Gm7 / C7 / F. This is a different key to the original C major.

They then use the 2 5 1 trick to change back to C major almost immediately using a dominant 7th chord for the 2 chord instead of a minor chord which is perfectly acceptable. The 2 chord can actually be a major, minor, dominant or even a diminished chord!

Furthermore, the 1 chord has flexibility too as it could be major or a minor chord. The V or 5 chord is the least flexible. Major or dominant 7 are the way to go

Example 2 The Lovin’ Spoonful Summer in the City

This is one of my favourite examples of the 2 5 1 key change trick in action.

See also  Fm Guitar Chord how to play it 15 Fm chord guitar chord shapes

The chorus starts in the key of F major. You know. “But at night it’s a different world go out and find a girl” which uses F / Bb / F / Bb. I IV I IV.

When you get to the “babe don’t you know it’s a pity the days” part, it begins to alternate between Dm and G which are the ii and V of C minor which is the key that we eventually move to in the verse “cool town evening in the city dressed so fine and looking so pretty”.

A nice long form.2 5 1 which is very easy to hear.

How to change key on guitar with the 2 5 1 conclusion

We could go longer and deeper into the subject of how to change key on guitar with the 2 5 1 but I don’t think we really need to. We’ve covered all the information you will need and we’ve looked at 5 examples. 2 from the real world, and 3 unique ones. Now it’s up to you. You should take the information from this guitar lesson and apply it to your own rhythm sections and compositions. You may struggle with making it smooth at first but it doesn’t take long to make it click. Remember. The objective isn’t to simply change key. You’re aiming to make music that sounds good.

This is a very valuable lesson on how to change key. Use it wisely.

Want more lessons like this? Try this very early guitar lesson I wrote for Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat on diminished 7th chords or this one here on a basic introduction to some jazz chord progressions. Or I don’t know, go learn some major 9 chords, minor 9 chords and dominant 9 chords.

Learn the essential skills to play the guitar in your favorite music styles